My New LA Times Oped: “Election law can’t protect democracy if our representatives are lawless”

I have written this oped for the LA Times. A snippet:

It took the civic virtue of about a dozen Republicans who had some control over the election process to resist Trump’s and his supporters’ incessant entreaties to overturn the will of the people. The president tried to get Georgia’s secretary of state to manufacture 11,780 Trump votes. He pushed state and local canvassing boards to reject election results. He and his allies brought frivolous lawsuits. As Barton Gellman recently explained in the Atlantic, had those virtuous Republicans not resisted Trump’s efforts, we could have had a full-on constitutional crisis, with Congress enabled to vote for sham alternative slates of electors.

These events demonstrate the limits of law in preventing democratic decay. As questions surfaced — could Rudy Giuliani’s claims lead to Pennsylvania’s election results being overturned? What happens if a Republican legislature tries to appoint alternative electors but the Democratic governor objects? Does the vice president have the power to block the presentation of electoral college votes to Congress? — I sought answers taking the law seriously and literally, and I reassured worried citizens that election law offered protections for a free and fair contest.

But the events of Jan. 6 show that at some point we may move outside the realm of law and into the realm of brute power politics and even violence. Had the vice president been killed or the speaker of the House held hostage, niceties about federal jurisdiction, how to handle competing slates of electors, and the precise meaning of the Electoral Count Act would have gone out the window. The actions of the Republicans who rejected valid electoral college votes make me think that if the GOP had held a House majority, they would have ignored the rules and law.

When people fail to obey the law, the law obviously cannot act as a constraint on their behavior. I and others have proposed the legal steps that Congress and states should take to make election law clearer and to remove all forms of discretion to manipulate election results, but these proposals are meaningless if political actors do not abide by legal rules

If the problem is no longer the shape of the law, but lawlessness itself, our democratic system is in serious jeopardy. The Republican Party is going to have to figure out how to expel the Trumpian elements of the party, something very difficult to do when they make up a majority of Republicans in the House and in many state legislatures as well. Pressure coming from the business community and from society at large will help, but it may not be enough.

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McConnell Pushes Democrats to Give Up Filibuster Reform As Part of Power Sharing Arrangement in 50-50 Senate

WaPo:

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his most definitive break yet with President Trump on Tuesday while the leader of the incoming Democratic majority laid out an ambitious agenda for the opening weeks of the Biden administration, signaling a dizzying changing of the guard in Washington.

McConnell (R-Ky.) for the first time directly blamed Trump for the lethal Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. “The mob was fed lies,” he said in his final floor speech closing out six years as majority leader. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) outlined a rapid-fire agenda for the coming weeks that includes confirming Biden’s Cabinet nomineesapproving trillions in additional pandemic aid and barring Trump from holding office — despite an uncertain road map in the 50-50 Senate, which is struggling even to adopt its basic rules.

Schumer is set to move from minority leader to majority leader on Wednesday, when the Senate meets shortly after the inauguration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, who will tip the chamber toward Democrats with her tie-breaking vote.

“The next several months will be very, very busy and a very consequential period for the United States Senate,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Let us begin our work in earnest.”

Significant obstacles threaten each of Schumer’s early goals: Republicans have thrown up early roadblocks to some of Biden’s key nominees, GOP fiscal concerns could make a bipartisan coronavirus bill difficult to pass, and Trump’s impeachment trial threatens to consume the earliest days of the Senate Democratic majority.

Beyond that, Schumer and McConnell reached an impasse Tuesday in talks to set the operating rules of the equally divided Senate — making any action a challenge — as McConnell demanded that Democrats drop any notion of ending the legislative filibuster.

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“Democrats seek momentum for voting, political money overhaul”

Roll Call:

Senate Democrats, on the cusp of holding the slimmest possible majority in the chamber, signaled Tuesday a symbolic first order of business: a major overhaul of the nation’s voting, campaign finance and ethics laws.

The measure, dubbed HR 1 in the House and now christened in the Senate as S 1 to signify that it is a top priority, died in the GOP-controlled Senate last Congress. It could see the same fate again in the 117th Congress unless Democrats remove the 60-vote threshold to end filibusters on legislation, a change the party’s base eagerly wants but remains in doubt.

Advocates pushing for the overhaul said they were mobilizing anew to build public support in both chambers. House Democrats expect to take up the measure as soon as this month or next, congressional aides said, as it closely tracks the same bill in the last Congress.

Congressional Democrats, as well as representatives of outside groups pushing for passage of the package, said the overhaul would help shore up voters’ confidence in a democracy damaged by a violent attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and after four years of corruption scandals and flouting of ethics norms during Donald Trump’s presidency.

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“Trump Has Discussed Starting a New Political Party”

WSJ:

President Trump has talked in recent days with associates about forming a new political party, according to people familiar with the matter, an effort to exert continued influence after he leaves the White House.

Mr. Trump discussed the matter with several aides and other people close to him last week, the people said. The president said he would want to call the new party the “Patriot Party,” the people said.

Mr. Trump has feuded in recent days with several Republican leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who on Tuesday said Mr. Trump deserved blame for provoking the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Polls show Mr. Trump retains strong support among rank-and-file GOP voters.

The White House declined to comment.

It’s unclear how serious Mr. Trump is about starting a new party, which would require a significant investment of time and resources. The president has a large base of supporters, some of whom were not deeply involved in Republican politics prior to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.

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“Hours before leaving office, Trump undoes one of the only measures he took to ‘drain the swamp’”

WaPo:

President Trump rescinded an executive order early Wednesday morning that had limited federal administration officials from lobbying the government or working for foreign countries after they leave their posts, undoing one of the few measures he had instituted to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”

Trump had signed the now-reversed executive order with much fanfare in an Oval Office ceremony in January 2017.

“Most of the people standing behind me will not be able to go to work” after they leave government, Trump said at the time, flanked by senior aides.

The order required executive branch appointees to sign a pledge that they would never work as registered foreign lobbyists, and it banned them from lobbying the federal agencies where they worked for five years after leaving the government.

Ethics experts at the time noted the order had loopholes — but still offered cautious praise for Trump’s attempt at halting the revolving door that allows government employees to use their positions to land lucrative jobs in the private sector.

No explanation was given for why Trump chose to rescind the order. The White House released the directive at 1:08 a.m. on the day he will leave office. It had been signed Tuesday.

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“Please Don’t Follow This Money”

NYT:

new Supreme Court case is calling into question the sincerity of corporate America’s reckoning with political giving. Many companies and trade groups say they are re-evaluating political donations after the riot in the Capitol, demanding accountability for lawmakers who challenged the electoral count. But in a matter accepted for review by the high court a few days after the mayhem, some of those organizations had argued for a constitutional right to anonymous charitable donations, a position that would make accountability more difficult. (It’s known as “dark money.”)

The case “nominally involves a tiny technical question” about the tax disclosures of charities’ major donors in California, wrote Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, in the National Law Journal. But it “could lock in dark money influence as a constitutional right,” he added, and it comes as “the country faces a dark-money crisis as anonymous influence spreads malicious disinformation and corrupts and disrupts our politics.” More than 20 “friends of the court briefs” supporting donor anonymity were filed, including from business groups….

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“New Republican named to MI elections board that certified Biden win”

Michigan Public Radio:

There will be a new Republican serving on the bipartisan state board that certifies election results – most recently President-elect Joe Biden’s Michigan victory last November. Governor Gretchen Whitmer – a Democrat – selected Tony Daunt from a list submitted by the Michigan Republican Party.

Daunt is the executive director of the Freedom Fund, a conservative foundation with ties to the DeVos family.

If confirmed, Daunt will replace Aaron Van Langevelde. He was not re-nominated to serve by the Michigan Republican Party, which submitted a list of three names for Whitmer to choose from.

It was Van Langevelde’s vote that allowed President-elect Joe Biden’s Michigan victory to be formalized.

“My conscience is clear, and I am confident that my decision is the right side of the law and history,” Van Langevelde said Monday in a statement after he was not re-nominated to the board. “Time will tell whether those who spread misinformation and overturn the election were wrong, and they should be held responsible for the chaos and confusion they have caused.”

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Michigan Journal of Gender and Law – Call for Papers

The Michigan Journal of Gender & Law is seeking submissions for its Fall 2021 issue centered on the topic of gender and democratic processes. The Journal welcomes all submissions that deal with, for example, the role of gender in election processes, public discourse or parliament. More details on how to submit can be found in the call for papers. Submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis until April 8, 2021.

Details here.

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“Steve Schwarzman, a Trump Adviser, Stays Loyal Till the End”

The NYT has broken a story that includes coverage of confidential meetings I’ve been involved in with the country’s business leaders since the election about what role they can play in supporting the stability of American democracy. I think the business community has a critical role to play and many business leaders have begun doing so. I’m not going to comment on the general accuracy of this story, other than to say that the story does quote me correctly:

On the morning of Nov. 6, 2020, Mr. Schwarzman joined about 25 chief executives, academics and others on a call to discuss the election results. Though votes were still being tallied, Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared to have won. Mr. Trump was challenging the results.

Timothy Snyder, a Yale professor who had written a book titled “On Tyranny,” likened Mr. Trump’s actions to a coup d’état.

To Mr. Schwarzman, the notion appeared absurd. “This has been a tough time,” he said, according to a participant who shared details from a transcript of the call. Both the media coverage and the polls had misled people, Mr. Schwarzman said, and as a result, “people generally are skeptical about what anyone’s telling them.”

He argued that the vote counts, which were continuing days after the election, had created a perception problem, especially in places where Mr. Trump appeared to have an early win only for a Biden victory to be declared later. His comments didn’t sit well with some attendees.

“It was 100 percent known in advance that this was exactly what would happen in a place like Pennsylvania,” replied Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional-law expert, according to the participant who had the transcript. Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, added that Mr. Trump’s actions were undermining democracy and should be of great concern, recalled attendees.

After Mr. Schwarzman’s comments were leaked to The Financial Times, some Blackstone investors began raising questions, say employees briefed on the calls. Staff members of pension funds, which invest with Blackstone, had previously told the firm’s officials that they wished Mr. Schwarzman would stay away from politics. Now, one pension wanted to know more about what he had said to the other executives and why, and another complained that they didn’t like what they were reading, two Blackstone employees said.

Even as he found himself ensnared in controversy, Mr. Schwarzman declined to criticize the president. It took him until Nov. 16 — more than a week after the election was called by networks — to acknowledge the win at an economic forum. (“It looks like Joe Biden,” he said.)

As Mr. Trump refused to concede, Mr. Schwarzman declined to sign a Nov. 23 letter in which more than 160 chief executives demanded a transition of power. Instead, he issued his own statement that “the country should move on,” adding that “I supported President Trump and the strong economic path he built.” (Jon Gray, Blackstone’s president and a big supporter of Mr. Biden, signed the group letter.)

Mr. Schwarzman also appears ready to move on. After the storming of the Capitol, he told colleagues that he thought the president should be removed. And he is now “ready,” he has said in recent prepared statements, to help Mr. Biden and his team.

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Matt Shugart Makes the Case for Proportional Representation in Congress to Save the Country from Authoritarian Wing of Republican Party

Shugart:

Because the constitutional emergency is likely too deep to just turn the page, small-d democrats face an emergency of another kind. The need to adopt proportional representation has never been greater. The country simply can’t afford the risk that the Republican Party does nothing fundamental to reform itself, and wins back the House in 2022. A change to some form of moderate proportional representation (PR) is essential.

Given the current balance of power in the House, the Republicans would need to flip only about seven seats in 2022. (There are currently three vacancies.) With rare exceptions, presidents’ parties lose votes and seats in midterm elections. With the balance so tight, there is almost nothing to stop Republicans from winning back control of the House, other than perhaps if they descend into internal party chaos. They just might do that. They might even split. But I don’t like seeing the fate of the republic depend on Republicans finding yet another way to squander an easy electoral win that’s there for their taking.

I am not arguing for a change to PR only for the sake of the Democratic Party. In fact, my argument is that this is a way for Republicans to save their own party. The country needs functioning pro-democratic parties on both the center-left and the center-right. At the moment, it has such a party only on the center-left, and even that is a temporary ceasefire amidst a deepening internal division.

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Republican on Gwinnett County (GA) Elections Board Wants to Make Voting Harder to Help Her Party

Oh my:

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“Big businesses say they are responsible, but too often they fuel conspiracy theories”

Michael Porter and Bruce Freed USA Today oped:

U.S. corporations and their leaders are speaking out forcefully about the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the need to transition quickly to the Biden era. However, they face a serious problem — their political spending in many cases conflicts with their calls and, in fact, played a role in the crisis.

Their problem is highlighted by the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars that leading corporations and their trade associations contributed to some groups that funded the election of state attorneys general who tried to overturn the election, and to groups like the Rule of Law Defense Fund that encouraged the Jan. 6 election protest. 

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“Lawmakers who objected to election results have been cut off from 20 of their 30 biggest corporate PAC donors”

WaPo reports.

The 147 Republican lawmakers who opposed certification of the presidential election this month have lost the support of many of their largest corporate backers — but not all of them.

The Washington Post contacted the 30 companies that gave the most money to election-objecting lawmakers’ campaigns through political action committees. Two-thirds, or 20 of the firms, said they have pledged to suspend some or all payments from their PACs.

Meanwhile, 10 companies said only that they would review their political giving or did not commit to take any action as a result of this month’s events.

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How Misinformation Emerges and Spreads

This is an illuminating story from the Austin American-Statesman about the spread of misinformation. The context is whether President Trump would lose his pension, travel stipend, and other benefits if convicted in the Senate trial. The false information here is that he would lose these benefits. The most interesting part of the story is the rationale from the person who spread the wrong information — see these comments:

The source of the screenshot in the posts is a Jan. 8 tweet from Ben Costiloe, a 57-year-old man who lives in Texas. He told PolitiFact that he copied the text from something he saw on Facebook.

“I looked at it, and they didn’t have any followers,” said Costiloe, whose own Twitter following has grown more than tenfold since publishing the post. “I thought about it and said, ‘Well, this isn’t completely true, but it could be true in a perfect world.’ So I threw it out there.”

“It could be true in a perfect world.” Think about that.

Here’s some more detail on how much this misinformation spread:

With only nine days until Inauguration Day, the Democrats’ move to impeach Trump is unlikely to result in his removal from office. But a viral social media post says it could have lasting effects on his future in public life.

The post, published by the liberal Facebook page The Other 98% on Jan. 9, outlined four potential consequences for Trump if the House votes to impeach him for a second time:

“For those wondering if it’s worth impeaching him this time, it means he:

Loses his 200k+ pension for the rest of his life

Loses his 1 million dollar/year travel allowance

Loses lifetime full Secret Service detail

Loses his ability to run in 2024.”

Celebrities like comedian Jim Gaffigan and advocacy organizations like the March for Science have shared the post to millions of followers.

The story goes on to correct the wrong information that was spread — because “it would be true in a perfect world” — including by talking to experts on these issues, such as Brian Kalt.

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“FBI investigating whether Capitol assault suspect tried to sell Pelosi computer to Russian intelligence service”

ABC News:

The FBI is investigating whether a woman who allegedly participated in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol stole a computer or hard drive from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the intention of selling it to Russia’s intelligence service.

According to an FBI criminal complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., Sunday, a witness called the FBI with a tip that a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, woman, Riley June Williams, is seen in a video published by ITV, a British broadcasting network, depicting Williams’ presence in the Capitol during the riot.

The witness told the FBI he or she was formerly a romantic partner of Williams. The witness claimed to have spoken to friends of Williams who allegedly showed the witness a video of Williams “taking a laptop or hard drive from Pelosi’s office,” according to the complaint.

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“Biden to ban special bonuses for appointees, expand lobbying prohibitions in new ethics rules”

WaPo:

President-elect Joe Biden will ban his senior presidential appointees from accepting special bonuses akin to “golden parachutes” from former employers for joining the government, while putting in place other expanded revolving-door restrictions in his first days in office.

The new ethics rules, which were described by transition officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the draft executive order is not public, will in some ways go beyond the guidelines for senior appointees that were put in place by the Trump and Obama administrations.

The biggest shift is the new rule that will ban incoming officials from receiving compensation from their previous employer for taking a government job, a practice that has been a flash point for government reform advocates and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Under the Biden program, appointees would still be able to accelerate vesting for compensation they have already earned.

For departing administration employees, the Biden rules create a prohibition on lobbying the administration for at least the length of Biden’s term and add a one-year restriction on assisting lobbying efforts.

That is an effort to crack down on lucrative “shadow lobbying” jobs, in which former officials go to work at law firms to help guide lobbyists without making contact with government officials themselves.

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“QAnon adherents discussed posing as National Guard to try to infiltrate inauguration, according to FBI intelligence briefing”

WaPo:

The FBI privately warned law enforcement agencies Monday that far-right extremists have discussed posing as National Guard members in Washington and others have reviewed maps of vulnerable spots in the city — signs of potential efforts to disrupt Wednesday’s inauguration, according to an intelligence report obtained by The Washington Post.

The document, a summary of threats that the FBI identified in a Monday intelligence briefing, warned that both “lone wolves” and adherents of the QAnon extremist ideology, some of whom joined in the violent siege on the Capitol on Jan. 6, have indicated they plan to come to Washington for President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.

The FBI also said it had observed people downloading and sharing maps of sensitive locations in Washington and discussing how those facilities could be used to interfere in security during the inauguration.

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“Dominion Voting Systems threatens to sue Mike Lindell, MyPillow C.E.O., over false claims”

NYT:

Officials with Dominion Voting Systems has sent Mike Lindell, the C.E.O. of MyPillow, a legal letter warning of pending litigation over his baseless claims of widespread fraud involving their machines.

“You have positioned yourself as a prominent leader of the ongoing misinformation campaign,” the letter said, referring to his continued false claims that their systems were rigged by someone to effect the outcome.

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“Trump’s Census Director To Quit After Trying To Rush Out ‘Indefensible’ Report”

Hansi Lo Wang for NPR:

The Trump-appointed director of the U.S. Census Bureau is stepping down close to a week after whistleblower complaints about his role in attempting to rush out an incomplete data report about noncitizens became public.

In an internal email announcement on Monday, Steven Dillingham said he is retiring from the bureau on Wednesday, more than 11 months before his term expires at the end of this year, according to a Census Bureau employee who spoke to NPR and asked not to be named for fear of retaliation at work.

The bureau’s public information office has not responded to NPR’s request for comment about Dillingham’s plans, which were first reported by Talking Points Memo.

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“FBI screens U.S. troops for possible insider threats ahead of inauguration”

WaPo:

U.S. defense officials say the federal government is conducting insider-threat screening on the 25,000 National Guard troops who have begun flowing into the nation’s capital to secure the inauguration, as concerns intensify about extremism in the ranks.

The extra precaution comes after a number of pro-Trump rioters involved in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 turned out to have military ties, raising questions about extremist sentiment within the armed forces. Dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were in Washington as the deadly riot unfolded.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive preparations, said the Army is working with the FBI to vet all service members supporting the inauguration. The Army maintains awareness of threats but does not collect domestic intelligence itself, the official said. It was not immediately clear how extensive the FBI vetting of the military personnel would be.

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“‘A place to fund hope’: How Proud Boys and other fringe groups found refuge on a Christian fundraising website”

WaPo:

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio had already publicized his plans to participate in the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. The 36-year-old Miami resident and national chairman of the Proud Boys posted on social media that he would direct small teams of his far-right group with a history of violence to wear black and fan out across Washington.

But when he arrived in D.C. on Jan. 4 ahead of the scheduled demonstrations, he said, “15 cop cars” swarmed his Honda Crosstour soon after he passed through the Third Street Tunnel. Tarrio was wanted on a misdemeanor charge from December accusing him of setting fire to a historic Black church’s Black Lives Matter banner.

During the traffic stop, authorities found high-capacity firearm magazines in his backpack, resulting in felony weapons charges, according to court records. And as he sat in a jail cell for 24 hours, Tarrio said, he thought about how he would need a lot of money to get out of this mess. Good lawyers, he said, don’t come cheap.

He said family members had the idea to monetize the support of his online followers through GiveSendGo.com, a niche Christian fundraising website that bills itself as “a place to fund hope.” Within a week, the “Enrique Tarrio Defense Fund” had amassed more than $113,000 from 2,359 donors, according to the site. Tarrio has pleaded not guilty.

“It’s not just Proud Boys that are raising money there,” Tarrio said in an interview Thursday, noting that his group’s chapters nationwide have used the site to fund their cause. “There’s just so many people that are raising money there.”

A review by The Washington Post shows that the self-described Christian website has become a refuge of sorts for outcasts and extremists, including fringe groups such as the Proud Boys as well as conspiracy theorists who seek to undercut the results of the presidential election by promoting debunked claims of fraud. Some of the users claim to have been booted from other crowdfunding websites for violating terms-of-service agreements.

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“The Trump presidency was marked by battles over truth itself. Those aren’t over.”

WaPo:

President Trump stands as a singular figure in American history for his willingness to entertain conspiracy theories from the Oval Office, and none has been more damaging or far reaching than his unsubstantiated claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him. One out of every three Americans believes that there was widespread fraud in the last presidential election, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, despite no evidence to support that view. Two in three Republicans believe so.

The social conditions that brought so many people to believe the falsehoods Trump has told about the election and a litany of other issues took root decades before he became a political figure and will extend far beyond the four years of his administration, according to scholars of disinformation and conspiratorial thinking.

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“Region’s GOP elected officials persist in questioning legitimacy of Biden’s win”

WaPo:

Despite those second thoughts, LaRock remains firmly defiant about the election and its aftermath. He refuses to accept that President-elect Joe Biden’s win was legitimate, even though Trump’s claims of massive fraud lack evidence and have been rejected by courts and then-Attorney General William P. Barr.

LaRock joined others in writing to Vice President Pence, asking him to reject Virginia’s electoral votes, after the state went for Biden over Trump by 54 percent to 44 percent. He believes antifa followers were “very possibly” among the leaders of those who assaulted the Capitol, claims also made by other Republicans without evidence and dismissed by the FBI.

LaRock’s stance is typical of most Republican elected officials in Virginia and Maryland. The perseverance of GOP politicians in questioning the election results threatens the core democratic principle that the people choose our leaders in a peaceful process, and the losers agree to try again next time.

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Jonathan Swan’s “Off the Rails” Series Describes How Dangerous and Bonkers Election Fraud Theories Swirled Around the President

From Episode 3 of Axios’s must-read “Off the Rails” series:

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. “Ugh, Sidney,” he told the staff in the room before he picked up. “She’s getting a little crazy, isn’t she? She’s really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It’s just too much.”

He put the call on speakerphone for the benefit of his audience. Powell was raving about a national security crisis involving the Iranians flipping votes in battleground states. Trump pressed mute and laughed mockingly.

“So what are we gonna do about it, Sidney?” Trump would say every few seconds, whipping Powell more and more into a frenzy. He was having fun with it. “She really is crazy, huh?” he said, again with his finger on the mute button.

It was clear that Trump recognized how unhinged his outside legal advisers were. But he was becoming increasingly desperate about losing to Joe Biden, and Powell and her crew were willing to keep feeding the grand lie that the election could be overturned.

They were selling Trump a seductive but delusional vision: a clear and achievable path to victory. The only catch: He’d have to stop listening to his government and campaign staffs, to cross the Rubicon and view them as liars, quitters and traitors.

Trump’s new gang of advisers shared some common traits. They were sycophants who craved an audience with the president. They were hardcore conspiracy theorists. The other striking commonality within this crew was that all of them had, at one point in their lives, done impressive, professional, mainstream work….

According to documents obtained by Axios, Powell and her crew advised Trump that a foreign conspiracy to steal the election involved a coordinated cyberwarfare attack from China, Russia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

In arguments in front of Trump in the Oval Office, White House officials pushed back aggressively.

What Powell was claiming to have uncovered would have been the greatest foreign attack in American history. Yet the U.S. intelligence community had seen no evidence of it.

But Powell had an answer for that too: The reason Trump hadn’t heard about this from his intelligence officials was because they were actively subverting him and hiding crucial information from him.

From Episode 4:

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president’s theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were “bullshit.”

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and a few other aides in the room were shocked Barr had come out and said it — although they knew it was true. For good measure, the attorney general threw in a warning that the new legal team Trump was betting his future on was “clownish.”

Trump had angrily dragged Barr in to explain himself after seeing a breaking AP story all over Twitter, with the headline: “Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud.” But Barr was not backing down. Three weeks later, he would be gone.

The relationship between the president and his attorney general was arguably the most consequential in Trump’s Cabinet. And in the six months leading up to this meeting, the relationship between the two men had quietly disintegrated. Nobody was more loyal than Bill Barr. But for Trump, it was never enough.

The president had become too manic for even his most loyal allies, listening increasingly to the conspiracy theorists who echoed his own views and offered an illusion, an alternate reality.

By the late summer of 2020, Trump and Barr were regularly skirmishing over how to handle the rising Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody. As the national movement unfurled, some protests had given way to violence and looting. Trump wanted the U.S. government to crack down hard on the unrest.

The president wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act and send the military into U.S. cities. He wanted troops in the street. Some hardcore outside allies, including Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, were egging him on. The thankless job of pushing back fell to Barr.

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$40 Million Effort from LDF for Next Generation of Civil Rights Attorneys in the South

Wow announcement via email:

Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) launched the groundbreaking Marshall-Motley Scholars Program (MMSP), an innovative educational and training opportunity that will produce the next generation of civil rights attorneys to serve Black communities in the South. As LDF celebrates its 80th anniversary year, the new scholarship and pipeline program builds upon its legacy of fighting for racial justice in America and producing leading advocates against racial injustice. The MMSP demonstrates LDF’s ongoing commitment to the South, where the majority of its clients reside, and launches as LDF prepares to open its southern regional office in Atlanta this year.

The MMSP is made possible by a generous anonymous donor who has committed to funding a program of 50 participants, which amounts to a $40 million investment in developing a new generation of civil rights lawyers in the South.

“For 80 years, LDF has been at the forefront of developing and supporting many of our nation’s legendary civil rights lawyers and leaders. The Marshall-Motley Scholars Program is the next phase of our commitment to identify and invest in a new generation of brilliant minds who have a deep personal desire to bring about racial justice in the South,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel

“The majority of Black people in this country still live in the South and continuously face impediments to voting, education equity, and racial and economic justice. For this reason, LDF’s docket and litigation practice has always been rooted principally in the South. During the 1960s, and early ‘70s, LDF invested in the creation of Black law firms in the South, providing fellowships and start-up costs for the law practices of some of the most celebrated civil rights lawyers in the region, including former LDF President and Director-Counsel Julius Chambers, a legend among civil rights lawyers in North Carolina. The time is ripe once again, for LDF to invest in the growth and development of civil rights lawyers in the South. With the MMSP, and the opening of our new regional office in Atlanta, LDF is deepening its longstanding presence in the South to help leverage the talent, passion, and commitment of a new cohort of civil rights attorneys dedicated to serving the majority of Black people in the country.” 

Over the next two decades, the MMSP aims to support the education and training of 50 aspiring civil rights lawyers. The program will afford participants: 

  • a full law school scholarship for tuition, room, board, and incidentals — to ease the debt burden that can prevent future lawyers from pursuing a career in racial justice;
  • summer internships to begin their training as civil rights lawyers early in their law school careers;
  • a two-year postgraduate fellowship at a national or regional civil rights organization with a racial justice law practice in the South — to provide unprecedented access to professional development and skills-building, training and preparation; and
  • access to special trainings sponsored by LDF and the National Academy of Sciences. 

In return, Scholars commit to practicing civil rights law in pursuit of racial justice in the South for at least eight years following the conclusion of their fellowship. Students beginning law school in the 2021 academic year are eligible to apply.

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“NY-22 may come down to DMV voter registrations”

Rome Sentinel:

Who will represent the 22nd Congressional District in Washington may come down to whether nearly 70 people who filled out a voter registration form through the Department of Motor Vehicles were really registered to vote.

The legal teams representing Republican Claudia Tenney and Democrat Anthony Brindisi have filed briefs with state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte outlining how they believe he should rule on the paper ballots filled out by more than 60 voters. Brindisi’s filings mention 69 such voters and Tenney’s 64.

It emerged during previous hearings in the court review of the ballot counting that Oneida County election commissioners did not include those ballots because they considered the voters not registered on time.

Commissioners and their deputies said they received registration applications but did not process them as they were overwhelmed with a flood of absentee ballot requests during the COVID-19 pandemic, carrying out recent changes in the law regarding registration, and preparing for the first major general election with 10 days of early voting at multiple polling sites, as well as preparing for Election Day.

Whether they should have may decide whether Tenney’s lead of 29 votes in unofficial tallies holds up.

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“Michigan Republicans seek to replace GOP canvasser who certified election”

Detroit News:

The Michigan Republican Party wants to replace the GOP member of the Board of State Canvassers who cast the pivotal vote to certify election results in favor of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. 

With party activists calling for certification to be blocked on Nov. 23, Aaron Van Langevelde, a policy adviser and deputy legal counsel for state House Republicans, joined the two Democrats on the four-member board to sign offon the results.

His term ends on Jan. 31. Instead of renominating him for a four-year term, the Michigan Republican Party has proposed three well-known activists to take his spot, according to a letter obtained by The Detroit News. Among them is Linda Lee Tarver, who was involved in a lawsuit that sought to have the GOP-controlled Legislature intervene in the results showing Democratic President-elect Joe Biden won.

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“Records: Trump allies behind rally that ignited Capitol riot”

AP:

Members of President Donald Trump’s failed presidential campaign played key roles in orchestrating the Washington rally that spawned a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to an Associated Press review of records, undercutting claims the event was the brainchild of the president’s grassroots supporters.

A pro-Trump nonprofit group called Women for America First hosted the “Save America Rally” on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse, an oval-shaped, federally owned patch of land near the White House. But an attachment to the National Park Service public gathering permit granted to the group lists more than half a dozen people in staff positions for the event who just weeks earlier had been paid thousands of dollars by Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Other staff scheduled to be “on site” during the demonstration have close ties to the White House.

Since the siege, several of them have scrambled to distance themselves from the rally.

The riot at the Capitol, incited by Trump’s comments before and during his speech at the Ellipse, has led to a reckoning unprecedented in American history. The president told the crowd to march to the Capitol and that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”…

Women for America First, which applied for and received the Park Service permit, did not respond to messages seeking comment about how the event was financed and about the Trump campaign’s involvement. The rally drew tens of thousands of people.

In a statement, the president’s reelection campaign said it “did not organize, operate or finance the event.” No campaign staff members were involved in the organization or operation of the rally, according to the statement. It said that if any former employees or independent contractors for the campaign took part, “they did not do so at the direction of the Trump campaign.”

At least one was working for the Trump campaign this month. Megan Powers was listed as one of two operations managers for the Jan. 6 event, and her LinkedIn profile says she was the Trump campaign’s director of operations into January 2021. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The AP’s review found at least three of the Trump campaign aides named on the permit rushed to obscure their connections to the demonstration. They deactivated or locked down their social media profiles and removed tweets that referenced the rally. Two blocked a reporter who asked questions.

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“How Republicans Are Warping Reality Around the Capitol Attack”

NYT:

Immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, all corners of the political spectrum repudiated the mob of President Trump’s supporters. Yet within days, prominent Republicans, party officials, conservative media voices and rank-and-file voters began making a rhetorical shift to try to downplay the group’s violent actions.

In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Trump era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like antifa who stormed the Capitol — in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election.

The shift is revealing about how conspiracy theories, deflection and political incentives play off one another in Mr. Trump’s G.O.P. For a brief time, Republican officials seemed perhaps open to grappling with what their party’s leader had wrought — violence in the name of their Electoral College fight. But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Mr. Trump.

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“Republicans call for unity but won’t acknowledge Biden won fairly”

WaPo:

As Biden prepares to be sworn into office surrounded by more than 20,000 National Guard troops protecting the inauguration from one of the gravest domestic terrorism threats in U.S. history, Democrats and other Trump critics are pushing Republicans to renounce the party’s embrace of the falsehood that inspired the Capitol attack and is motivating many of the Trump supporters vowing to take up arms again.

So far, the efforts have been largely fruitless. Even as much of corporate America threatens to withhold donations from lawmakers who objected to the election results, and social media companies cancel accounts — including Trump’s — spreading the false conspiracy theories, the bulk of elected Republicans continue to follow Trump’s lead in refusing to acknowledge that Biden’s win was legitimate and fair.

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Thanks to Trump’s Lies, 7 in 10 Republicans Believe Biden Was Not Legitimately Elected

WaPo-ABC Poll:

Overall, more than 6 in 10 Americans say Biden was legitimately elected as the 46th president, including more than 9 in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 independents. But 7 in 10 Republicans say he was not legitimately elected. That suggests that Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, propagated by many other Republicans, have taken root within the party despite the absence of credible evidence, dozens of failed legal challenges and multiple recounts affirming Biden’s victories in Georgia and Wisconsin.

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“The Protection of the 2020 Election: The View from the Biden-Harris Campaign”

Bob Bauer and Dana Remus on lessons learned:

With the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris only days away, there is value in reflecting once again on the extraordinary strength and resilience of American democracy. The shocking events of January 6, 2021 have prompted a stalwart defense of our  electoral process throughout government and the leadership of  business, religious and other communities. It has focused attention, as it should, on how we should see the 2020 elections—as an extraordinary achievement. 

As familiar as they may be, , the  statistics frame the story. More than 158 million Americans voted, representing nearly two-thirds of eligible voters.  Measured as a percentage of the voting-eligible population, voter turnout reached the highest level since 1900.  This was true throughout the country.  Every single state, and 98% of the nation’s counties, saw higher turnout than in 2016.  Forty-one states had the highest turnout of any election in the past 50 years.    

But the outcome could have been disastrously different. Not since the Civil War has this country’s electoral process been subject to such overwhelming and potentially crushing pressures:  a once-in-a-century public health crisis, a deluge of both domestic and foreign  disinformation, and a divisive politics reflected in legal battles over voting rights. Across the country, these upheavals put exceptional strains on voting systems that are already chronically underfunded and fragile.  

In our roles leading the Biden presidential campaign legal team, we were charged with developing a voter protection program adapted to these exceptional circumstances.  In more ordinary times, voter protection programs facilitate access to the polls, monitor for and challenge unlawful or groundless burdens on voting rights, and support election officials in their hard work of preparing for and conducting the voting process.  These tasks were as important as ever this cycle, but they were far from sufficient.  We quickly recognized that the 2020 program would require vastly greater resources and different approaches than in past cycles. Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon, a veteran of the Obama-Biden presidential campaign voter protection programs, assigned the highest priority to this work.  Together, we determined the urgent priorities to be…

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“Angered by Pa. Supreme Court rulings, GOP moves to exert more control over judiciary branch”

Spotlight PA:

A state House panel narrowly advanced a measure Wednesday aimed at giving the Republican-controlled legislature the power to draw districts for electing appellate court judges in Pennsylvania, a major shift away from the current statewide contests.

The majority party has made overhauling the courts a priority after a slew of unsuccessful litigation involving the administration of the 2020 election as well as the coronavirus pandemic. But critics warn the change is an attempt to exert control over the judiciary branch.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 13-12 in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment, which would affect races for state Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts. If passed by the full House and Senate by Feb. 18, it would be before voters for the May 18 primaries.

Republicans contend electing judges by district will lead to more geographic representation. A majority of the 31 appellate judges are from either Philadelphia or Allegheny County — including four of the seven Supreme Court justices — but those areas make up less than a quarter of the state’s population….

But opponents of the amendment said it would threaten judges’ ability to render statewide decisions without influence, because they would be beholden to a regional constituency and to lawmakers who could draw them out of a district if they don’t like a judge’s ruling. Lawmakers could also gerrymander the districts to ensure the judges they want are elected.

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“Misinformation dropped dramatically the week after Twitter banned Trump”

WaPo:

Online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent after several social media sites suspended President Trump and key allies last week, research firm Zignal Labs has found, underscoring the power of tech companies to limit the falsehoods poisoning public debate when they act aggressively.

The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.

Election disinformation had for months been a major subject of online misinformation, beginning even before the Nov. 3 election and pushed heavily by Trump and his allies.

Zignal found it dropped swiftly and steeply on Twitter and other platforms in the days after the Twitter ban took hold on Jan. 8.

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“Atlanta Prosecutor Appears to Move Closer to Trump Inquiry”

NYT:

Prosecutors in Georgia appear increasingly likely to open a criminal investigation of President Trump over his attempts to overturn the results of the state’s 2020 election, an inquiry into offenses that would be beyond his federal pardon power.

The new Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, is already weighing whether to proceed, and among the options she is considering is the hiring of a special assistant from outside to oversee the investigation, according to people familiar with her office’s deliberations.

At the same time, David Worley, the lone Democrat on Georgia’s five-member election board, said this week that he would ask the board to make a referral to the Fulton County district attorney by next month. Among the matters he will ask prosecutors to investigate is a phone call Mr. Trump made in which he pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the state’s election results.

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Barton Gelman: “America’s Second-Worst Scenario: So far, cumulative acts of civic virtue have saved the republic. But the constitutional order is still in danger.”

Barton in The Atlantic:

Here is the nub of our predicament. Donald Trump attempted democracide, and he had help. The victim survived but suffered grievous wounds. American democracy now faces a long convalescence in an environment of ongoing attacks. Trump has not exhausted his malignant powers, and co-conspirators remain at large.

I do not mean to be taken figuratively. The president of the United States lost an election and really did try with all his might to keep the winner from replacing him. He did his level best to overthrow our system of government, and tens of millions of Americans marched behind him. But a coup d’état in America had seemed so unlikely a thing, and it was so buffoonishly attempted, that the political establishment had trouble taking it seriously. That was a big mistake.

It is still too soon to assess this moment in historic perspective, but we seem to be living through something like a next-to-worst-case scenario. Trump failed in the end—if we have reached the end—to maintain an illegal grip on power. But his attempted coup made too much headway for comfort, and his supporters are far from finished with their assault on majority rule.

Even so, there is good news to be found in the manner of Trump’s defeat. The system held. Enough officials did the right thing, when it counted, to fend off the overthrow of our government. And in this we can see a path forward….

The same drama played out still more publicly in Georgia, where Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another Republican, defended the state’s election integrity against a ferocious assault by Trump. The president mocked him publicly and threatened him in a telephone call while demanding that Raffensperger “recalculate” the election outcome. Unaccountably, Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp—notorious for no-holds-barred voter suppression when he held Raffensperger’s job—backed up his secretary of state, even when Trump threatened to support an opponent in Kemp’s reelection race next year.

“If Brian Kemp had agreed to be completely lawless, he could have called in the state legislature and they could have tried to appoint a different slate of electors,” Richard Hasen, an election-law expert at UC Irvine, told me. “He could have refused to sign the certificate of the electors. I’ve never thought of Kemp as a voting-rights hero … but he was a hero here, stood up to tremendous pressure given the hold that Trump has over the Republican Party right now.”

So why did they do it? Why did Kemp and Raffensperger and Van Langevelde accept Biden’s victory—while nearly two-thirds of the U.S. House Republican caucus voted to overthrow the election? Why did Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, sign the “certificate of ascertainment” of Biden’s win in his state—while the 18 state attorneys general, including his own, asked the Supreme Court to throw away results from elsewhere? Why did state legislators in Pennsylvania not attempt to appoint Trump electors—while signing a letter asking Congress to reject the Biden electors?

“I think it did depend on the personalities,” Kevin Kruse, a Princeton historian, told me. “I think you replace those officials, those judges, with ones who are more willing to follow the party line and you get a different set of outcomes … If enough people do that, if enough dominoes fall, the whole thing falls apart.”

Edward Foley, an Ohio State law professor, likewise told me that old-fashioned “personal virtue” saved the republic. Of Van Langevelde, he said: “There was intense pressure on him, and he looked like a pretty young guy. He really held firm, and the only thing to account for that is character.”

I see a more optimistic explanation, less contingent on the happenstance of personality. During Trump’s attempted coup, political actors did the right thing at the moments when the power of decision was directly in their hands. The Republicans who stayed true to the law, who chose to follow their duty, were the ones who had actual power to move events. Putting your name on a brief or a letter is a kind of performance—“a cheap act of virtue signaling, or vice signaling, depending on your perspective,” as Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford law professor, put it to me. Voting can be symbolic, too, when a resolution has no chance of passage. But when it came to concrete, meaningful steps—when state officials could actually have reversed an outcome by decertifying a vote or appointing Trump electors—there were enough Republicans who would not cross that line….

Baldly stealing the election for Trump could have been costly to men like Raffensperger and Kemp. The backlash in the general public would have been immense. A plurality of their voters, after all, had cast ballots for Biden. Even so, Persily said, “I also want to praise their integrity. I think they realized they had a higher obligation here to the democracy. We shouldn’t pretend that they didn’t pay a significant price. Their political futures in Georgia are really in doubt as a result of this.”

“They weren’t ready to give up on the American experiment,” Hasen said.

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Looking Forward to Speaking at This Jan. 21 UC Free Speech Center Event: “Elections, Insurrection and Inauguration: What’s Next for Democracy?”

Webinar registration for University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement where I’ll be interviewed by the Center’s Michelle Deutchman:

Topic: Elections, Insurrection and Inauguration: What’s Next for Democracy?

Description: Following the recent insurrection at the United States Capitol, Americans have been left wondering how our democracy has faltered and what needs to be done to restore and strengthen it. Professor Richard Hasen joins us to discuss the 2020 election, the Capitol riots and the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Jan 21, 2021 10:30 AM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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“Progressive group urges corporations to halt donations to conservative Federalist Society after riot”

CNBC:

A progressive group is urging corporations to stop contributing to the Federalist Society after one of the conservative legal organization’s leaders was featured at last week’s rally that preceded the deadly riot on Capitol Hill.

Demand Justice told CNBC that it wants corporations to stop giving to the Federalist Society after member John Eastman, a lawyer and former law professor at Chapman University, spoke at the rally.

Several of the companies that have given to the Federalist Society as recently as 2019 have said they would either not contribute to Republicans who challenged the results of the presidential election, or would reevaluate or pause donations from their corporate political action committees. These companies and groups include Facebook, Google, T-Mobile, Verizon and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Federalist Society’s 2019 annual report shows that the five companies combined to give up to $400,000 to the group. The group finished that fiscal year with over $25 million in revenue. That report is the most recent available on the Federalist Society’s website. It is not clear whether these companies donated money to the Federalist Society recently. The next disclosure of donors could come later this year.

“These corporations can either take a stand against those who have supported acts of sedition or they can continue funding the Federalist Society, but they can’t do both,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, told CNBC.

In a statement to CNBC, End Citizens United, a political action committee that has advocated for big money to be taken out of politics, blamed Eastman and the Federalist Society for the riot that occurred at the U.S. Capitol. Tiffany Muller, the group’s president, noted they are going to pressure corporations to end cut off funding for the group.

“We will make sure no one forgets the Federalist Society’s role on that dark day, and we’ll continue pressuring corporations to cease their funding to all traitors and terrorists,” Muller said.

None of the companies mentioned in this story responded to a request for comment. The Federalist Society did not return CNBC’s requests for comment.

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“Lessons and Recommendations from the 2020 General Election”

Final report from the National Task Force on Election Crises. Executive summary:

The 2020 election was defined by paradox and contradiction. Thanks to millions of poll workers, election officials, and citizens who stepped up to make our democracy work, the election was secure and free from systemic or significant fraud. A record 160 million Americans voted and had their voices heard. Yet still, voter intimidation and racial disparities in access to the ballot continued, our election system was revealed to be aging and unnecessarily confusing, Americans weathered a wave of disinformation and, of course, there were unprecedented efforts to delegitimize and overturn the election results—ultimately leading to a crisis the likes of which we’ve not experienced in modern history. In the end, Congress counted all of the electoral votes, but only after President Trump sought to both coerce federal and state officials to overturn the results, and incited a violent insurrection.


This attack on our democracy culminated with white supremacist rioters attacking the Capitol seeking to not only overturn the Constitutional order, but also to take hostages and assassinate members of Congress and the Vice President. While American democracy has survived this crisis so far, we will only be able to prevent the next one if we both 1) ensure accountability for all those who incited, abetted, and participated in the insurrection, and 2) adopt preventative reforms based on the lessons we learned in this election. Those lessons and reforms are the focus of this report.

The National Task Force on Election Crises is a nonpartisan group that was formed to help the country prevent and confront election crises, in order to protect a free and fair 2020 election. In this report, the Task Force highlights many challenges that emerged in the election, including instances in which the president undermined the electoral process. Of course, the Task Force would have highlighted challenges to a free and fair election and a smooth transition if they came from another presidential candidate.
Election administrators helped mitigate a crisis. State and local officials conducted the general election in spite of extraordinary challenges posed by a global pandemic. Officials from both parties worked together to expand voting options, recruit hundreds of thousands of poll workers, and become expert crisis communicators, often for the first time. At the same time, there were challenges and failures, including long lines in a number of states, complications stemming from absentee ballots, voter intimidation, isolated system malfunctions, and—above all—widespread challenges of disinformation and partisan polarization around efforts to make voting accessible.
Social media companies learned key lessons from 2016. Some platforms adapted their policies to be more vigilant against election-related disinformation in the 2020 election cycle, attempting to contextualize disinformation and slow its spread. That said, false claims were far-reaching, coming particularly from President Trump, his allies, and his family members. These claims resulted in widespread refusal to accept the results, and troubling threats of violence against election officials and others. Social media platforms also were used to both inspire and coordinate participation in the insurrection on January 6th.
Election reporting was careful and voters patient. Because of the unprecedented volume of absentee ballots and lack of pre-canvassing or processing in critical battleground states, preliminary results took much longer than usual. In general, the media and voters were prepared to wait for results and traditional and social media correctly described President Trump’s claims of victory as false. Outlets took care to explain why results may change during counting, were transparent about how election projections are made, and resisted political pressure to interfere with their decision desks. That said, this election proved that responsible reporting is no match for disinformation spread by candidates and political leaders.
President Trump’s refusal to accept the results badly damaged the perception of election legitimacy and led to the insurrection on January 6th. Baseless allegations of fraud, false claims of victory by President Trump, and attempts to overturn the result were supported by many Republican officials. This delayed the presidential transition, helped convince the vast majority of Trump’s supporters that the election had not been legitimate, and led to the attack on the Capitol on January 6th.
Efforts to disenfranchise voters and reverse the outcome were a threat to democracy. Starting on Election Night and continuing through to January, there were concerted efforts to delegitimize the election, seed doubt in the outcome, and overturn the results. These attempts included baseless lawsuits that sought to disenfranchise entire states and pressure state officials to interfere with the counting and certification of results. Attempts to overturn a legitimate, democratic election took a toll on the country and likely caused lasting damage to the perceived legitimacy and long-term stability of American institutions and our system of government.

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“Nonprofits helped organize the pro-Trump rally before the Capitol siege – but they probably won’t suffer any consequences”

The Conversation:

Editor’s note: Some of the money used to organize the Jan. 6 pro-Trump “March to Save America” came from social welfare groups. One of them, Women for America First, notably obtained a permit from the National Park Service for the rally – which preceded an assault on the Capitol in which at least five people died. The Conversation U.S. asked nonprofit law scholar Ellen Aprill, who served in the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy in the late 1980s, about possible ramifications for these nonprofits.

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Remember that Luzerne County Thrown-Away Military Ballots Issue? “A Pennsylvania election probe that Trump falsely touted as a sign of vote-rigging ended without charges”

Philly Inquirer:

Federal prosecutors in Harrisburg announced Friday they had found “insufficient evidence” of a crime in an election investigation that President Donald Trump and his allies had repeatedly touted as a sign of vote-rigging in Pennsylvania.

The case, involving nine military ballots found discarded in a Luzerne County dumpster, was unusual from the start. Breaking with traditional Justice Department norms that prohibit discussing most ongoing investigations — especially ones that could influence elections — then-U.S. Attorney David J. Freed sent out a news release confirming the probe after Trump alluded to the matter on a Fox News Radio segment in September.

The president then repeatedly cited it during his first debate against Joe Biden to bolster his baseless claims that widespread fraud would cost him the election.

In a since deleted tweet, a Trump campaign spokesperson pointed to the case, claiming: “Democrats are trying to steal the election.”

In his announcement Friday, Freed’s successor, Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, said no criminal charges will be filed.

“The matter is closed,” he said in a statement.

Officials in Luzerne County, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, had blamed the mistaken decision to throw out the nine ballots — seven of which were cast for Trump, the other two of which remained sealed — on an unidentified and poorly trained temporary employee who had been hired to help handle mail ballots.

The votes were retrieved from the trash and counted. The Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office referred the matter to federal prosecutors in an abundance of caution.

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“Census numbers won’t be released before change in power”

AP:

Government attorneys and municipalities fighting over the 2020 census asked a judge Friday to put their court case on hold, as Department of Justice attorneys confirmed the Census Bureau for now will not release numbers that could be used to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the process of divvying up congressional seats.

Department of Justice attorneys and attorneys for a coalition of municipalities and advocacy groups that had sued President Donald Trump’s administration over the 2020 census asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to suspend their court case for 21 days so the administration of President-elect Joe Biden can take power and decide how to proceed.

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“How Outside Money Makes Governing More Difficult”

While we are on the subject of how the structure of campaign finance laws and practices can affect democratic governance, I want to remind readers of the recent empirical paper Michael Norton and I published, which shows that the more outside money is spent on elections, the more it fuels the poles of the parties. More money to the political parties and campaigns, rather than outside spending, produces more cohesion and less fragmentation within the party caucuses.

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“Corporate donations are good for political moderation”

This is a new article by Michael Barber, which further confirms what we’ve known about which donors support the ideological more extreme candidates and which support more moderates. I’ve written about these issues and what we know empirically about them in Participation and Polarization.

Here is the abstract from the new Barber paper:

This article demonstrates that limits on campaign contributions—which alter a candidate’s ability to raise money from certain types of donors—affect the ideologies of legislators in office. Using an original data set of campaign contribution limits in some US states over the last 20 years, I exploit variation across and within states over time to show that higher individual contributions lead to the selection of more polarized legislators, while higher limits on contributions from political action committees (PACs) lead to the selection of more moderate legislators. Individual donors prefer to support ideologically extreme candidates while access-seeking PACs tend to support more moderate candidates. Thus, institutional changes that limit the availability of money affect the types of candidates who would normally fund-raise from these two main sources of campaign funds. These results show that the connection between donors and candidates is an important part of the story of the polarization of American politics.

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“Senate Plans Trial for Trump as G.O.P. Weighs Risks of Convicting”

NYT:

Although Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has privately told advisers that he approves of the impeachment drive and believes it could help his party purge itself of Mr. Trump, he refused to begin the proceedings this week while he is still in charge. That means the trial will not effectively start until after Mr. Biden is sworn in on Wednesday, officials involved in the planning said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has discretion over when to transmit the article of impeachment, formally initiating the Senate proceeding. Some Democrats said she might wait until Monday, Jan. 25, or longer to allow more time for the Senate to put in place Mr. Biden’s national security team to respond to continued threats of violence from pro-Trump extremists.

With Republicans fractured after the president’s bid to overturn the election inspired a rampage, many of them were trying to gauge the dynamics of a vote to convict Mr. Trump. Doing so would open the door to disqualifying him from holding office in the future.

A cautionary tale was playing out in the House, where a faction of Mr. Trump’s most ardent allies was working to topple Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, from her leadership post. Ms. Cheney had joined nine other members of the party who voted with Democrats to charge the president with “incitement of insurrection.”

Most Senate Republicans stayed publicly silent about their positions. But Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and one of the president’s leading critics, signaled on Thursday that she was among a small group in her party so far considering convicting Mr. Trump. In a stinging statement, she called his actions “unlawful,” saying they warranted consequences, and added that the House had acted appropriately in impeaching him.

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